Greece is the first gateway to Europe mainland for refugees and migrants, crossing the East borders of Greece (from northeast Evros River to southeast Aegean Sea) including Greece’s capital, Athens.
In September 2011, Greece started constructing a 12,5 Km ‘anti-immigration’ fence across Evros River which is the natural Greek-Turkish border. From December 2012, the safest and easiest route to Europe has been shut down. The only alternative is the dangerous sea crossing of the Aegean Sea from Turkey, mostly to the Greek Island of Lesbos. Migrants and asylum seekers, in most cases, don’t have legal papers and passports in order to continue their journey. They get stuck within the borders of the city and the greater region.
A part of their journey:
“My name is Mohammed , I’m from Syria. I used to be a university student”.
“My name is Omar, I am from Syria. I came to Greece before two years and three months. I came from Istanbul.”
“I went of course to Turkey at first, from Turkey I came to Greece. I spent too much money for the smugglers to bring me here.”
“We arrived near the borders of Greece, from there we walked for three hours to reach the border, after three hours of walking we reached the river. The one that is near Alexandroupolis.”
“There we were 20 people, we had two boats and in each boat got 10 people, in our boat we were all from Syria. It was very difficult, because no one knew how to paddle. When we got there (in the Greek side), police was shouting to us, to go back to Turkey. The guys from the other boat, from Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan, ran towards Greece.”
“We got out from the boat. The police shouted to us “back!”. To turn back, to cross the border and go to Turkey. I did not want to go because I don’t know how to swim, neither the two women did and of course the baby.”
“We went back on the boat.”
“The boat was drifting in the middle of the river. It kept drifting. We were afraid and we shouted for help “Help me! Help me! Help me!” But the police had hidden and we didn’t know what to do.”
“I told myself that my life ends here”.
“Now I’m in Greece, looking for a legal way at least to get me out of here. We have to go out, we need to go out! When you need to go out, you have no (other) way but the land way, the airport and all of that are illegal of course.”
“Here (now) I want to build my life in order to be able go somewhere else (in the future).”
In December 2014, Mohammed crossed the borders with Skopje. This was his fifth attempt. In January 2015, he arrived in Austria.
In August 2015, Omar left Greece towards western Europe. He currently lives in Germany.
About the author:
Orestis Seferoglou was born in 1990. He lives and works in Athens, Greece as a freelance photographer. In 2014, he was selected to participate in the 7-month International Masterclass by VII Photo Agency in Milan. He has been published in various greek magazines such as EPSILLON, BHMAgazino, METRO and more Seferoglou is collaborating with SOOC photo agency and he is working as a freelance photographer for VICE Greece. Since 2013, he has been working on his ongoing project ‘My Name Is’ focused on the current issue of the refugee and migration crisis in Greece.
A plastic lifejacket floating near the shore after a dinghy arrived with refugees and migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 21, 2015.
A man prays and kisses the ground on the shore after arriving with other refugees and migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on October 21, 2015. An EU scheme to relocate asylum seekers from overstretched Italy and Greece could grind to a halt just two weeks after it began if member states fail to meet their obligations, an EU source said on October 21.
A woman waits on the beach with her child, shortly after arriving, with other refugees and migrants, on the Greek Island of Lesbos, on October 22, 2015 after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey. An EU scheme to relocate asylum seekers from overstretched Italy and Greece could grind to a halt just two weeks after it began if member states fail to meet their obligations, an EU source said.
A migrant takes shelter from the heavy rain inside his tent, outside the Moria registration camp, on October 23, 2015, on the Lesbos island. Over 400,000 people have landed on Greek islands from neighbouring Turkey since the beginning of the year, most of them fleeing the civil war in Syria.
A group of new arrived refugees and migrants walking an uphill in direction to Mitilini harbour in Lesbos island, Greece
A migrant covers himself with a blanket as he stands under heavy rain at the entrance to the Moria registration camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on October 23, 2015.
Refugees and migrants disembark the ship “Tera Jet” in the port of Pireaus, Greece on September, 3 2015. The ship arrived from the island of Lesbos where the larger amount of refugees and migrants arrive after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey
A mother holds her child as they ride on a bus after disemarking in the port of Piraeus from the “Terra Jet| highspeed goverment chartered ferry on September 1, 2015. Ferries from the islands continually bring more migrants to the port of Piraeus in Athens
Refugees and migrants wait for buses after disembarking from the ‘Tera Jet’ highspeed ferry boat in the port of Piraeus, on September 1, 2015. Ferries from the islands continually bring more migrants and refugees to the port of Piraeus in Athens.
Shadi Mansour, 35 years old refugee from Syria poses inside the hotel room currently lives in central Athens. Masnour used to be a veterinarian from a small town near Aleppo, Syria. He fled Syria towards Turkey and in late December 2014 he passed the Aegean Sea by boat to arrive in Greece in order to continue his journey to western Europe.
Syrian refugees camped outside parliament for weeks because none of them had applied for asylum or shelter.The Syrian refugees, including women and children, have defied the rain and cold to sleep on the pavement opposite parliament
A lit apartment from a apartments block in Psyrri area in downtown Athens. Psyrri neighborhood near the historical center of Athens has numerous empty former small industrial buildings, in some of them currently living migrants and refugees
Clothes are left to dry inside an abandoned building temporary used as shelter for refugees and migrants in the port of Piraeus near Athens. The Balkan trail from Greece to northern Europe used by floods of migrants was blocked in early March 2016.
Immigrants from countries other than Syria and Afghanistan, that were not allowed to continue their trip towards central European countries, have found temporally shelter at Tae Kwon Do stadium, in Faliron, Athens.
A muslim family from Egypt leaving by car the celebrations of the Eid Al-Adha in Athens, Greece. Eid Al-Adha also called the Feast of the Sacrifice is the second of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide each year.
Three Shi’ite Muslims from Pakistan, living in Greece take part in a Muharram procession marking Ashura. Ashura, the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad, in the battle of Kerbala in Iraq.
A woman walks among tents inside an abandoned building temporary used as shelter for refugees and migrants in the port of Piraeus near Athens.
An apartment block seen from the window of a hotel room in central Athens. In this hotel, Syrian refugees freshly arrived in Greece have found shelter for the last months as they wait for their asylum papers to be authorized by the greek authorities.
Tents and some clothes hanging inside a a passenger terminal temporary used as shelter for refugees and migrants in the port of Piraeus near Athens. The Balkan trail from Greece to northern Europe used by floods of migrants was blocked in early March 2016.
Abdala Omar Yahya, a refugee from Syria poses in the balcony of the hotel room where he currently lives in central Athens. Abdala fled Syria towards Turkey and in late December 2014 he crossed the Aegean Sea by boat to arrive in Greece in order to continue his journey to western Europe.
An empty room inside a brothel in the area of Metaxourgeio in central Athens. This underdeveloped neighboohood known for the numerous legal and illegal brothels where mainly immigrant men from South Asia are visiting them.
Autthman Al Ahmad, 21 years old, a refugee from Syria poses inside the hotel room he currently lives in central Athens. He fled Syria towards Turkey and in late December 2014 he crossed the Aegean Sea by boat to arrive in Greece in order to continue his journey to western Europe.
Muslims living in Greece praying in a public mosque during the Eid Al-Adha celebration in Athens. Eid Al-Adha also called the Feast of the Sacrifice is the second of two religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide each year.
A reflection in windown of Abdala Omar Yahya, a refugee from Syria currently living in a hotel room in central Athens. Abdala fled Syria towards Turkey and in late December 2014 he crossed the Aegean Sea by boat to arrive in Greece in order to continue his journey to western Europe.
Omar, 28 years old refugee from Aleppo of Syria sitting and poses in the backyard of his basement house in central Athens. Omar used to be a university student. He has been in Greece since two and a half years. Omar has been arrested multiple times by the Greek police as he has not yet obtained the asylum papers required for his permanent residence.